A Word Of Advice

DSC_0097Here’s a word of advice: make sure to keep a record of all your travels across your home country’s borders. All of them. For ever. Record the date of departure and date of return, destination countries, possibly add additional comments regarding the purpose of the trip.

The trouble is that, one day, you might want to apply for something where the application form requests that you list all such travels over the past five years – for example, an application for British citizenship. Or how about ten years (Russian business visa)?

Madness, and probably almost never entirely correctly filled out. I wonder what’s the point of this, but I certainly wish someone gave us that advise ten or more years ago, especially when you consider a busy international travel schedule like the good wife’s.

The Castle and I

DSC_0150Interpol, the NSA and most other intelligence agenciesseem to exchange data about us, our Facebook status, Twitter habit or bowel movement frequently and liberally. However, when we travel, we must submit a letter of invitation, a letter of confirmation, two photos of a specific size, a signed application form, gas bills of the last three years (optionally water bills), substantial payment, and a passport.

I look forward to a trip to the Gujarat, India, but the overhead of those arrangements is just ludicrous, fit to keeping an enormous bureaucratic apparatus comfortably alive. I don’t see which other purpose this serves.

Franz Kafka was right all along with his novel The Castle. All along.


Temps Perdu

DSC_0697I recommend that everyone should undertake a journey aboard a ship. By that, I don’t mean a 3 hour river cruise with a Dixieland band and Chablis for all, and I don’t mean a 3 week cruise of the Caribbean either; no, I recommend a 25 hour crossing from Poole, UK, to Gijon, Spain. Once arrived, you can enjoy a lovely holiday in Spain or Portugal, then take the reverse trip back. It is these two 25 trips I am talking about.

There’s nothing to worry about, and nothing that needs to be done. You couldn’t do anything even if you wanted to. It’s the perfect opportunity to read your book without a sense of guilt about the tasks left undone while reading, for taking time for your manicure or pedicure or idle daydreaming.

I read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being with great pleasure.

While I’m at it, I should also recommend Jonas Jonasson’s The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, which I read between the two sea journeys. This book made me laugh and think of Tom Sharpe a lot.

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Wet Season

DSC_0233October 2013 is a pretty wet season in Croatia, at least in the area of the beautiful Paklenica National Park, just while it was (according to the neighbour) nice and pleasant back home. Well, OK, it was also nice and pleasant in Croatia, but not really thanks to the weather.

Photos have all been filtered, rotated, uploaded, and are available right here: http://gallery.gauweiler.net/places/Croatia_Oct_2013/

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A Greek Tragedy

Sydney Opera House by nightIt’s called the Opera, but since it seems to have gone out of production quicker than in, it’s more like a Greek tragedy to me. I seem unable to even contemplate the purchase of one. One of these, I mean: http://ysin.co.uk/show/nl/content/2,18.

How brilliant is that? A beautifully designed luxury Klappkarr’n with most advantages of a caravan, but still some of the I-am-free-under-the-sky feeling of a tent. I am guessing that the price tag would have been quite excessive; judging by their marketing pictures, the whole thing is made to very high standards.

I am now contemplating a visit to the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC, Birmingham. Maybe not this October and maybe not for purchase this year, and maybe not exactly a klappkarr’n designed by Axel Enthoven, but there is no harm in dreaming, and performing a reality-check, is there?


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DSC_040716 days, many Airmiles and many a bruise in the bum later, after several in-flight meals of questionable quality and several movies we wouldn’t have watched otherwise, we’re back from Rarotonga.

Fotos are now online and available right here: http://gallery.gauweiler.net/places/Rarotonga/

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A Global Issue

DSC_0458It used to take months, weeks maybe if the winds were good and the Panama Canal was already open, to reach the US west coast. Today, a direct flight between London and San Francisco takes approximately 10 1/2 hours, and seems unbearably long.

Worst, of cause, if the person next to you (or me) is one of those iPad fetishists who need to whip it out every couple of minutes. He marvels at the desktop with the simulated raindrops (drops which would be immediately wiped away, if they were real and on the outside of the glass), then delights in the fact that no new email has arrived 35,000 feet above Greenland. Because there is nothing else to do, he pinches out and zooms in, in and out of nothingness (such as the system settings) and delights in a prolonged series of slide right, zoom in, pinch out, flip-over and slide-elsewhere finger gestures. Then he stashes it away for a few minutes, before the whole spiel repeats itself.

I know a lady how types on her iPad with such a joy that you think she gets an orgasm with every key activated.

These are two individuals, but serve for a much larger crowd of people who simply lost their minds over these devices.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my tablet, and I know Apple’s are really nicely done, too. That should be the end of it. Behaviour often displayed by many iPad enthusiasts, for example in waiting areas or aeroplanes, is nothing short of indicative of a global mental health problem though.


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Wild West

DSC_0440W7 is once again in the land of the free, in the land of the almighty superlative, in the land where Adele’s songs still play up and down the radio, in the land of gigantic portions, in the land where people think freedom of expression means the ability to drive the biggest car that fits on public highways.

Hmm, looks like I might suffer a slight attitude problem here. I’m counting on my local friends coming to the rescue.

Business Ideas

DSC_0344Not from choice but for a lack of viable options, we flew to Croatia with Easyjet, and marveled at the numerous chargeable options. In-person check-in? Hold baggage? Priority check-in?

We think there’s no end to expansions to this scheme.

Priority disembarkment?
Experienced pilot option?
A fee to have your baggage returned to you?

The BBC’s funny Come Fly With Me comedy program already showed a superb parody of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, where he explains the life saving kit, and demonstrates its easy-to-use credit card reader and touch screen to the purchase of additional options. Life vest? Air top-up option? Whistle?

It seems that reality has beaten us. On our return flight from Dubrovnik, the cabin crew announced that Easyjet will soon be introducing an exciting new feature: allocated seating. While they didn’t give away details, I am sure seats in rows closer to the exits will be more expensive than those further away. A premium will be chargeable for window seating. Seat allocation at the time of booking will be at a premium for sure.

I do normally applaud creative business ideas, but the aggressive manners of the so-called low-cost carriers make me wince and avoid them whenever I can.

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Adriatic Ups and Downs

DSC_0684We had always dismissed the effect of the tide in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering 12m tides in St Malo or 11m ones near Weston-Super-Mare, and considering the Mediterranean Sea in comparison, let alone the Adriatic Sea in particular, let alone a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast, let alone a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast which opens to the North. Surely, considering all this, there can be no tide worth mentioning in the Mediterranean Sea.

However, if you imagine yourself in a small sit-on-top plastic kayak in the middle of a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast (which opens to the North) while the practically non-existent tide comes in, and if you consider the fact that this bay is approximately 60km long and 5km wide, even an inch or two of tidal difference amount to a lot of water, particularly so if you paddle against the incoming tide and strong winds.

T’was good fun. We crossed from Starigrad-Paklenica over to the island of Pag on a dead calm sea (a ~3.5km distance, an “open sea” paddle of ~45 minutes for us), and enjoyed a secluded empty beach with grains of sand the size of a newborn’s head, our picnic lunch and a swim in absolutely stunningly clear waters. Our return was at the time of the aforementioned tidal currents, so we worked ourselves against the elements for a while, then made a tack and rode the currents back home, taking the waves at a 30..45 degree angle – just as much as we dared before the boat would tip over.

Even though the distance travelled on the return must have been longer (on account of the tacking), I don’t think the return crossing took any longer than the outbound paddle.

On other occasions, we observed up to 0.3m of tidal difference (it reaches almost 0.4m in Split). I never knew, or realized.


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Highway Robbery, At Your Service

DSC_0896A few days ago, I examined options for pre-paid credit cards, the modern day wannabe equivalent of a traveller’s cheque. The idea is simple and not without appeal: you buy a credit card and deposit money into the credit card account. Later, you use it to pay for travel expenses. When the card is lost of stolen, you might have lost the $220 remaining on the card at the time, but your bank account, house and livelihood is not tied into the missing piece of plastic.

Within seconds of highly scientific research, I concluded it’s a scam, a method of luring fools into handing more money than before over to the card provider. Basically, it works like this:

You’d receive a piece of plastic worth pennies, and they provide database infrastructure worth a fraction of a penny per transaction. Then, they receive several levels of assurances from you, including of course the full amount of money which you’d think you might need at some future point in time. They play with your deposit until you need it, and then some. In return, they take absolutely zero risk. Zero, zilch, naught, none.

For the pleasure, they charge an initial fee in the £5..10 range, or a monthly fee in the £3…13 range (some providers charge both, initial and monthly), and a variety of staggering  per-transaction fees. Some even charge for the pleasure of loading your money into their account. [click]

Call me old-fashioned if you like. In my naive little world, I am happy to pay for a good service. The offers under review all seemed like highway robbery to me. I’d consider switching credit cards as soon as someone offers pre-paid cards as a free service to cardholders for use during holidays, or for use with online transactions. You’d think this should be dead cheap for the card companies to provide, and be a real service to boost customer loyalty and attract new customers.

Real service. Looks like I’m on the wrong planet.


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Not The Right Message

DSC_0567The good wife ruled that we should spend a short break in the Chilterns, and as our luck would have it, she chose the first rain-free weekend since memory. We took the train to Oxford, and followed the national cycling route 5 to Banbury. Too bad that it doesn’t use the Oxford Canal tow path much, but a nice route. A curry and a Bed & Breakfast later, we’re on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon, still along route 5. Signage wasn’t very good and the route was pretty rough in places, but landscape and groomed villages of very affluent “country folk” were nice enough to compensate. I think there were more Jaguar than John Deere vehicles in many of these places.

The most frustrating part were the trains though. The National Rail inquiry service told us that we had to change in Slough on our way out. Luckily, we figured out that the train we were on went straight through to Oxford, changing as advised would have gotten us there five minutes later, with the added hassle of the change.

Given how ill-prepared British trains are for cyclists, we were lucky to find space for our bikes, and nearby seats, so we were glad not to change trains. Almost £20 per person, sold by an unhelpful and unfriendly ticket agent at the station.

The same spiel on our way back from Stratford: the ticket agent didn’t want to talk to us, only hesitantly surrendered information under thread of torture, and definitely though it beneath himself to help us choosing a route into Ealing. Another £20 per person (on a super-saver ticket!) and an amazing 2 hours later on a slow-moving train bound for London Marylebone, we alighted at Wembley Stadium and cycled the remaining 5 miles through suburbia, rather than going all the way into town, cross to London Paddington and come out on a different train (and additional ticket cost).

They really make no detectable effort to promote the use of local trains. Expensive tickets, unappealing schedules, hard-to-come-by and even incorrect time table and connection information, unfriendly and unhelpful staff, slow moving trains – we should emigrate to Germany, were we did similar trips for €20 (covering a group up to five people in a vast area, all day, with amble cycle storage in every train). I get tears in my eyes when I think of it.

Here, we pay £20 per person and journey, are made to block the doors with our bikes due to the absence of any other space, and take over 2 hours from A to B on a journey which would have taken 1 hour 46 minutes by car, according to Google.

Clearly, this isn’t sending quite the right message, is it?

At least the Service Information Board at Oxford station did. Click the image for enlargement.


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